Kenneth Kaunda: the missing legacy


Kwame Nkrumah may have been propelled by the adage because he wrote a lot that is now common heritage to humankind and Ghanaians have a reference point to their evolving history.  Nigerian leaders have also obeyed the adage. 

Obasanjo wrote like there is no tomorrow. So did Nnamdi Azikiwe. Obafemi Awolowo’s website is impressive in terms of what he wrote about his country and his struggles for independence and to keep Nigeria together. Down South, Nelson Mandela left a legacy of knowledge through his writings. South Africans will never be left wondering what Mandela did or thought, who he dealt with and for what and how South Africa benefited from the existence in South Africa of a man named Mandela. 

First generation leaders wrote a bit about their struggles for independence. For example President Kaunda wrote his Zambia Shall be Free; Jomo Kenyatta wrote Facing Mount Kenya;  Oginga Odinga wrote his riveting Not Yet Uhuru. 

In Tanzania, Julius Nyerere wrote more about his plans for economic development and the philosophical underpinnings than the others in East and Central Africa. He was closer to Nkrumah in terms of leaving a legacy of his thoughts.In terms of autobiographical legacy, Mandela may be the top African leader to bestow his people of this knowledge that cannot be obtained in any other way about the man other than the man himself. What is impressive about Mandela is that he wrote his autobiographies before, during and after his tenure as president.

Zambia is marked by the poverty of the writings of its leaders. 

There is a serious danger that we will never know what made President Kaunda to tick and what motivated him to sacrifice the economic and political survival of Zambia by his support for the liberation of Southern Africa. How did Kaunda manage all the pressures from the British, Americans, Chinese and the Soviets? How did he manage to construct the ideology of humanism? What are its origins and philosophical underpinnings? Where did he get the idea of tribal balancing and how deep it was? How exactly did he negotiate the survival of Zambia in that turbulent region for 27 years? Did he ever think of resisting the transfer of power despite the loss in 1991? 

What has life been like since he left power and living under the presidencies of Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda, Sata and Lungu? What legacy does he think he will be leaving Zambia with?  If he was given a second chance to rule Zambia, what would he do differently? So many people have raised all types of questions about Kaunda’s governorship. What would be his answers?

Mandela wrote many books in the short time that he lived after jail.  Our President ruled for 27 years and has been out of power for 24 years. 

There is a lot that could have been written to leave a long lasting fount of knowledge for Zambians, a legacy of knowledge that cannot be obtained anywhere else.  Others have written about Kaunda but it is not the same kind of knowledge as that which would be expounded by the source himself.  The Post newspaper put out a 90th birthday commemorative issue in 2014, to which I was privileged to contribute.  

A lot of contributors broached interesting subjects to which only Kaunda can expand on.  Zambia is thirsty for the knowledge about their first president.

 The Post used to carry Kaunda’s reminiscences and they were fascinating but they are now difficult to access if they still exist at all. Maybe a collected reminiscence of Kaunda as previously published by the Post can be put together.

Hopefully Zambia will not continue to live in drought.  Some leaders have contributed significantly to the personal experience knowledge of Zambia but we need the source himself to quench our thirst.  

Vernon Mwanga stands at the top of leaving a legacy of knowledge for Zambia. 

He has written autobiographies or aspects of his life in such books as An Extraordinary Life (Volume 1 and 2); The Long Sunset; The Other Society among others.  Simon Zukas has also written, Into Exile and Back.  Sikota Wina’s Night without a President is unequalled;  Mwanakatwe has written a fantastic autobiography, Teacher, Politician, Lawyer: My Autobiography;  Alexander Grey Zulu, the closest to the seat of power in Zambia under Kaunda has written a useful autobiography, Memoirs of Alexander Grey Zulu. President Chiluba wrote quite a readable albeit not comprehensive book constructed initially as an academic project entitled, Democracy: The Challenge of Change.  Amos Malupenga has written about Mwanawasa. Charles Mwewa has written about Michael Sata.  A biography is different from an autobiography.

Kaunda re-launched his pre-independence autobiography on March 6th, 2015.   

Given the interest shown in that publication by the Zambian masses, it is clear a full blown autobiography mapping his life from 1964 to present, will be a monumental legacy for Zambia. The West African adage of “when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground” is a real prospect for Zambia. –The African Executive

* Dr  Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is the author of Thoughts are Free: Prison Experience and Reflections on Law and Politics in General (1991); Class Struggles in Zambia, 1889-1989 and the Fall of Kenneth Kaunda, 1989-1991 (1992); The Politics of Judicial Diversity and Transformation (2012) among other publications.

April 2015
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